As those of you who follow me on Twitter and Snapchat know, I recently went to check out the sprawling city of Las Vegas for a trivia competition. While the more astute of you might recall I was just there in February to ring in my 30th, I feel like this trip was closer to what the quintessential Vegas run should be, since there were a lot more of us (a whole trivia team’s worth) and we rolled in with almost zero plans in place. To me, nothing says Las Vegas more than winging it with your friends, all of whom are ridiculously heavy drinkers. Thus, I shall now review Vegas, based on the crazy limited experience and time I had there.
I have a weird relationship with luck. My luck with life is off the charts, as I’ve stumbled into more weird opportunities and interesting circumstances than I had any right to. But my luck with winning contests and money had always been utter shit. So it was that whenever we went into the casinos throughout the strip, everyone else would race off to actually try at their games of chance, while I’d prepare to lose $20 on the cheapest craps table I could find. Why craps? Because at least it’s fun, damn it, and if I’m going to lose anyway I want to enjoy myself.
So far as the difference between casinos themselves, Cosmopolitan was the prettiest, Planet Hollywood the most convenient (there’s an ABC store inside, more on that later), Excalibur had the best drink specials, and Caesar’s the most shopping. If you want more in depth than that, I’d recommend reading the reviews of people who take that stuff seriously, and weren’t just stumbling from casino to casino, dropping off payments at every craps table along the way.
The food is Vegas is damn expensive, but damn good. There were giant frozen hot chocolate sundaes at Serenity 3, awesome crepes at some place in front of the Paris casino, next to a homemade ice cream sandwich joint, and of course the secret pizza place inside Cosmopolitan was freaking delicious. Not to mention reasonably priced, which is a damn rarity to find in Vegas.
As for the buffets, a Vegas staple and my favorite type of dining, on this trip I only made it to one, the Flavors Buffet in Harrah’s casino. That said, it was a pretty awesome experience, as me and a buddy split off from the group, determined to get some grub and drinks. We arrived an hour before closing time, and were told in forty-five minutes the food would stop being refilled. But the entry was relatively cheap, and for an extra $10 came with all we could drink, so we decided to take that gamble.
No sooner did we sit down than a waitress came for our drink orders. I got champagne, my friend, wine, and by the time we got back with our plates she’d brought them. Not just a glass of each, mind you, oh no. She brought whole bottles! And then kept stopping by to see if we wanted beer to chase it down with. I never thought I’d be called out on my drinking speed by a nice old woman in a buffet, but damned if she didn’t shame us into knocking back a few beers with our respective wines.
The actual food was really good, as one expects from a Vegas buffet, but here I offer you all a word of warning: If you spend an hour filling your body with as much snowcrab and champagne as you can force down your gullet, you are going to crash hard. While everyone else went to check out a night club that was, apparently, awful, my friend and I barely made it back to our rooms before we both fell into five hour comas. So, you know, plan your own sprees accordingly.
Ah, it’s not really the Vegas experience if you’re not loaded all the time, right? I mean, the casinos practically throw booze at you! Or… they used to, according to my understanding. Apparently someone up high decided it might be more economical to have people pay for drinks, because in all the time I was in Vegas I had exactly one waitress stop by my gambling table and bring out a beer. To be fair, I was playing the cheap tables, so that might not be the case if you’re someone of affluence who actually spends some money, but I write books for a living, so that ain’t me.
There is, however, a saving grace for those of you who want to keep a buzz without breaking the bank. ABC Stores, such as the one in Planet Hollywood, will sell you beer and liquor for actual reasonable prices, which you can then bring with you literally anywhere. Vegas is open container, so you can walk freely down the street, and into casinos, with beers and flasks aplenty.
Oh, but the beer will be hot, I hear you saying! Have no fear, for all along the strip are Walgreens/CVS stores that also carry very fairly priced over-sized beers. Thus, you can refresh your stock as you drink it during your exploration, plus pick up some bottles of water along the way. And you should drink the water anyway, cause duh, we’ve talked about fighting hangovers before. Now, is this the classiest, more high-end way to do Vegas? Hoooooly shit no. But it works, and after a few giant beers you won’t even care about the idea of classy anymore.
During my first Vegas trip in February, I did the classy, well-known shows like Zoomanity and Penn & Teller. This time, since we were playing it by ear, we all decided to go check out something that we saw a random poster for: Zombie Burlesque. Tickets were cheap, and it was at a time we all suspected we’d be relatively sober, so we made a group call to book some seats.
Look, I’ll be honest, we went in expecting exactly the same thing you do from a show titled Zombie Burlesque. A few laughs, and maybe a nice song or two. Fuckin’ Hell, were we underprepared for this though. I love theatre, having done it all through college and still taking in shows whenever they come near me, and I was blown the fuck away by how much talent was packed into this small stage. Everyone had a specialty, and they were fucking good at it. The MC was an insanely gifted singer/actor, there were contortionists, gymnasts, ballerinas… basically each character was showcased in some way, and it all added up to an insane amount of awesome. If you make a trip up, go see this show. I have a hunch those tickets won’t be so cheap for long.
Actual Trivia Contest
Honestly, far and away the most boring part of the trip. Ended up making beer runs to a nearby flower shop to keep the team interested. If you go to Vegas, even for something like this, maybe just skip it. There's way more fun shit to do!